OUR FOUNDERING NATION—WHAT HAPPENED?: A BRIEF HISTORY of POLITICAL ETHICS (OR NOT…)
Our political system traditionally has included two parties: Democrat and Republican. The Republican Party (born with Abraham Lincoln) came to represent business and corporations, while the Democrat Party represented the working man. As technology and industrialization progressed the Democrats, fearing uncontrolled growth and the possibility of its taking over government, became more socially liberal and unionistic. This ‘new left’ (which is no longer new, having begun in the Roosevelt administrations along with growth of the Frankfurt School) attracted humanistic intellectuals who tended to command power by virtue of their advanced education and higher recompense—a technical and cultural elite of professionals and highly-paid bureaucrats—a far cry from the blue-collar workers of yore. And academe has become almost exclusively liberal, becoming more so as one ascends the scholastic ladder.
Republicans responded by becoming more conservative, a movement in turn countered by Democrats moving even farther left into Progressivism. Progressivism has been described earlier, but the senses—feelings—play an increasing importance within it. Rationality takes a back seat.
Progressives favor a loose interpretation of the Constitution as a ‘living’ document having human properties in the sense that it should change with the times; contemporary society should be taken into account when interpreting key constitutional phrases. (This smacks of deconstructionism that removes meaning from existing text, reinserting a meaning of current choice—witness political correctness.)
Conservatives, on the other hand, hold the Constitution to be the law of the land that can only be changed by the procedure of Amendment specified in the document itself. It is the Constitutionally-specified function of the Supreme Court to interpret the document, not to change it. [From Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court Justice: “In fact, originalism and trying to figure out precisely what the ratified document means is the only option, otherwise you’re just telling judges to govern. The Constitution is not a living organism…It’s a legal document, and it says what it says and doesn’t say what it doesn’t say.” But an originalist interpretation still provides for a flexible legal system, he said: “You want the death penalty? Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and enact it (by Amendment). You think it’s a bad idea? Persuade them the other way and repeal it. And you can change your mind. If you repeal it and find there are a lot more murders, you can put it back in,” he argued. “That’s flexibility.”] But it takes thought, not feeling.
(Postmodernism began as a reaction to the modernist certainty of scientific (objective) efforts to explain reality, venerating mediocrity by focusing instead on idealism, relativism, skepticism and the ‘relative truths’ of each individual in an effort to understand his own reality. But postmodernism continued the Progressive’s modernist rejection of absolute truth and so will remain an undeveloped ideology in spite of itself.)
The modern liberal practice of rejecting formal convention in favor of good intentions spawned its own unique ideology (body of doctrine, myth and belief rather than a primary socially-grounded philosophy). They claim to be indifferent, but by definition ideologies have an agenda (see belief) and tend to breed extremism in their effort to discredit conflicting philosophies (i.e., if facts intrude, the well-meaning liberal’s response may well be: “that’s just not the way we do things,” an approach characteristic of an ideology.)
As the 20th Century progressed an ebb in democracy accompanied the lessening of vitality in the public sphere. The promise of unlimited scientific progress was weakened with the realization that science might in fact go too far (as in the atrocities of both World Wars—ethnic cleansing and Nazism, and thermonuclear power). Television and the computer led to an increasingly depersonalized mode of interaction, the public consuming media (and therefore subject to being manipulated by it) rather than paying personal attention to politics and directly interfacing with other people. In effect, democracy was colonized by mass media and the liberal elite, and politics became more of a ‘spectator sport’ than a personal involvement. Liberalism has come to define mass media (newspapers, television, even Hollywood) and dominate the Democrat Party in recent years.
And that’s how we got here. Stay tuned to find out where we’re going; (hint: the elimination of the distinction between the individual and the group signals the end of our Constitutional rights). Beware.
To be continued…